Sunday, January 20, 2013

How Much Living Space?

Typical apartments in Cuenca, Ecuador, often home to families of ten or twelve people.
The United Nations International Housing Coalition recommends a minimum of 75 square feet per person for safe and private living conditions.  Unfortunately, 50% or more of the people in the world live in far less.

As we prepare to move into our RV, I calculate that we will be living in approximately 200 square feet—a luxury for most of the other human beings on our planet! 

As an American, it is difficult to grasp the depths of poverty around the world and the extreme luxury of even the poorest Americans.  When one lives in a culture of McMansions, giant SUVs and big box stores, it is difficult not to feel inferior when one is considered to be living below the poverty line.  But if we want a real measure of our blessings, we need to remember to think globally. 
Third World living conditions
 I see this upcoming lifestyle change as a spiritual journey, and an opportunity perhaps to conquer once and for all my own demons of depression and despair.  This will all depend on how I choose to look at things.  I can see this as an amazing opportunity for adventure and travel, for meeting people and getting my talents and gifts out into the world, with a man I love most dearly, and with a freedom few people—even Americans—will ever have. 

Instead of lamenting over the loss of my house, I can choose to see that now I won’t have to worry about shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, finding the money for large maintenance issues like hot water heaters or broken gutters.  (Or Saturday night shootings or boom cars or wild roving groups of unruly teens.) Physically, living in the RV will be easier because everything is easier to reach and there is less to clean.  (I have difficulties with my back and feet and right arm, difficulties that cause limited mobility and chronic pain; my husband is also disabled.)

In the RV, we can avoid the extremes of weather that cause added discomfort by staying to the south in the winter and to the north in the summer.    No more heat stroke in July, and no more dark subzero Januarys. 

Traveling with Rick has always made me happy.  I have more fun just being with him than with anyone else on the planet (well, at least the ones I know).  He is cheerful and witty, and he has a wide-eyed sense of wonder at the world that is rarely seen in people over the age of about ten.  Unlike many others I have traveled with, he does not get angry when we are “lost” but simply sees it as part of the adventure—another opportunity to experience something fresh and new.  He loves to drive and can drive for long hours at a stretch.  Rick is all about enjoying life, a refreshing change from my neurotic need to always be doing something “important.”

My happy hubby at Sunset Beach, Cape May, NJ
 These days of waiting have been a trial for me, filled with anxiety and impatience.  But my greatest spiritual teacher is sitting in the next room, and soon we will be sharing 200 square feet of luxurious freedom.  I think that makes me a lucky woman.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Basic Book Recommendations

I had a call from a young woman in Texas the other day.  She lives in a small, very Baptist town where there are only Christian bookstores.  Yet she hungers to learn more about spirituality than is dreamt of in her community.  She ordered a deck of Psycards, but also asked my advice—what books would I recommend to her? 

Of course, there are many, many good books on all sorts of spirituality.  So I can only recommend based on personal experience.  Over the years, there have been a few books that—for me, at least—were life-changing.  


The first book I recommend anyone read—regardless of their specific spiritual nature—is Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization.  It’s probably in its gazillionth printing by now, but I first read it in the 1980s.  This is the finest book I have read about creating the life you desire.  It is practical, offers specific meditations (I learned that I could meditate and read at the same time!), and advice on how to manifest your greatest good in the world.

The second book I recommend everyone read—read it at the same time, if you will—is Melitta & Denning’s book Psychic Self-Defense, published by Llewellyn.  This book teaching you how to fortify your aura, how to deflect negativity, how to keep others from sucking your energy (even when they don’t mean to), and how to understand and use the various energies of the aura and the chakras.  Basic, how-to, instruction manual for your energy field.  The information in this book will help protect you in all your spiritual practices and help keep you balanced and grounded.

If I were to teach a six- or eight-week course in intuitive development, I would start by having my students read these two books.  Then we could all go get an aura photograph, so we could see our own energy fields—and that would lay the ground work for us to explore color, light, energy, stones, healing, etc.

And when you are ready to develop your own healing abilities, there is The Psychic Healing Book by Amy Wallace and Bill Henkin.  Again, very practical, hands-on, solid, usable advice. 

These three, when well-studied, will give any seeker of Truth a solid foundation upon which to build subsequent study and experience.

But there is one more I MUST recommend.  That is a little-known book written in the early 20th century by Florence Scovel Shinn:  The Game of Life.  This book contains all the principles expanded upon by subsequent self-development authors like Shakti Gawain and Wayne Dyer and even Deepak Chopra (although Chopra brings a union of eastern and western though together in the most compatible way).  It was through Shinn’s book that I was able to finally and fully merge my early Christian teachings about Jesus with my New-Age/shamanic/direct revelatory spiritual path.  Sometimes it is just about finding the right words to turn the key in your mind.  Because of The Game of Life, I can now fully embrace my woo-woo from all directions.  (A special thank-you to Frank Slagle of the Mystic Forest bookstore in Mountain Home, Arkansas, for his recommendation of Shinn’s writings. I would publish a link, but Frank doesn't have a web site.)

There will be more books to recommend as we go.  I also publish a book review blog on my web site:  If you have written a book that you would like me to consider for review, please send it and any promotional information to Catt Foy, P.O. Box 4225, Davenport, IA  52808.  I can't promise I'll review every book I receive, but as I read them and find them salient, I will post the reviews for all the world to see. 

Spirit and Ink--an essay on magazines

I heard with dismay that Newsweek magazine had published their last print issue.  Dismay and sadness, because I love that magazine, it has been my favorite news magazine for decades.
This morning, the first of January in a year that I wasn’t sure any of us would live to see, I picked up another magazine, Sage Woman.  And the first article I read was a journey into beauty and poetry and spirit.  “Goddess in the Details” by Alison Leigh Lilly reads like a prayer and moves like wind on the water.  It is so beautifully written, so carefully crafted that I read it aloud, to savor every word. 
It was an auspicious beginning to a new year, a new life, and sets (I hope) the tone for what this year will mean to me.  When I finished reading it, I caressed the slick page of the magazine with affection and thought about the power and the intimacy of print magazines.
When we read something online, it feels as though others are watching—or could be watching.  Somewhere is a research engine marking what I am reading today, to better sell me products their model predicts I would want to buy.  I am being counted. 
And when we write something online, the others are watching then, too.  Sympathetic others or critical others or simply others who don’t understand or don’t care.  But their presence remains there—out there somewhere in potentiality.  It is like reading or writing in a public place. 
But this wonderful article in this visually rich magazine with its sleek pages is a private experience—it is mine and mine alone this morning.  No one is watching, except perhaps the Divine; the experience is intimate and personal. 
I am sorry to hear of the demise of print publications, but I believe there should always be a place for them.  Something you can hold in your hand, read by candlelight, that doesn’t need batteries or a USB cord.  A solid object with words of delight nestled between pages of real paper, printed with real ink, tangible, touchable and concrete, yet close and private as a prayer.
I probably won’t be reading Newsweek any more.  I won’t think about it unless someone sends me a link or comments on Facebook about it. I won’t find it at the newsstand or in the doctor’s office, so it is likely that Newsweek will become a memory for me, a nostalgic thing like milk delivery or newspaper boys.  But I am grateful to the publishers who still think writing worth reading is writing worth the cost of the paper it is printed upon.  Thank you, Anne and Alison.

Sage Woman is published by Anne Newkirk Niven. I highly recommend a subscription to this or one of her other magazines, Witches & Pagans, and Crone.  In the meantime, you can enjoy the rich prose of Alison Leigh Lilly on her blog, Meadowsweet & Myrrh